As you read through the gospel of Mark, you will discover that Jesus often tells people not to advertise the news about him. He tells a healed leper not to tell anyone (Mark 1:43). He gives evil spirits strict orders not to tell who he is (Mark 3:12). He rises a girl from the dead and then instructs her parents not to tell anyone (Mark 5:43).
All of this seems strange to us. Why wouldn’t Jesus want the message about healings and miracles and his identity to be spread everywhere? Jesus’ commands to silence seem to be the opposite of what we might expect, since we think that the good news of the kingdom should be spread everywhere.
There are many different reasons Jesus at times tells people not to tell. In some cases, he wants people to understand he is not just a miracle worker. In other cases, he wants to make sure that publicity about his miracles don’t interfere with his teaching ministry. Sometimes, Jesus seems concerned that his timetable would be disturbed by premature news of his miracles. In other words, he has a schedule for going to the cross, and he realizes that if the news about him is spread too broadly and too quickly, the calendar for the cross and resurrection will not match God’s calendar. He wants his identity to be revealed on his timetable, not someone else’s. Jesus’ popularity with the people was making him a “rock star” with some. This popularity, along with the opposition of the religious leaders, could have triggered a crisis before Jesus’ ministry was completed. There were also times when Jesus just needed to get away from the crowds, and he realized that the frenzy of too many people might have prevented his ability to depart and pray.
The paradox is that Jesus doesn’t always command silence in Mark’s gospel. In Mark 5:19, after he heals a demon-possessed man, he tells him to go home to his family and tell them how much the Lord has done. “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.” Jesus’ command to secrecy seems to be situational. When he is in Galilee with the Jews, He recognizes the need to keep the news of his ministry fairly quiet. When he is in the Decapolis (an area of ten Gentile cities), he realizes that the news can spread without interfering with his agenda for the kingdom.
None of this should be interpreted to mean that Jesus wants us to be quiet about the gospel! Jesus commanded us to go and tell (Matthew 28:18-20) everyone about the kingdom. The instructions to silence in Mark’s gospel were appropriate to that particular time and circumstance. But now, the muzzle is off! Our call is to communicate the good news about Jesus to everyone we know, in every way we can!